Friday, October 4, 2013

Interview: Kasha Kropinski Says, "Hold Onto Your Socks!"

AMC's smash historical-drama hit "Hell on Wheels" concludes its third season tomorrow, Oct. 5. I spoke with series regular Kasha Kropinski recently, and she told me all about this period Western, and also a few spoilers as to what to expect from the series finale. So hold onto your 10-gallon hats, and get ready for the ride!

Celebrity Extra: I want to first congratulate you for being picked up as a season regular this year. You must have been thrilled!

Kasha Kropinski: Gosh, when I first arrived on the show, I was only intended to be a five-episode guest star. And then it grew and evolved, and I was brought back for the second season. And then plugging along in the second season as a guest star, I never expected to come back each year. I’m always terribly surprised when they do call and say, “You’re back on the show.” So, when season three came along and I was offered a series-regular contract, I was just so surprised because I don’t anticipate anything. I don’t hold my breath about things, especially because I have been in the industry since I was 9 years old. So, I’ve grown accustomed to being let down and being disappointed. I’ve developed a relaxed outlook toward things and missed opportunities. To actually be contracted and to be given this very sort of important and substantial thing in my career, I was just so shocked and stunned. It’s my first series-regular job that I’ve ever had, so it’s sort of a different echelon. It’s quite unfamiliar; it’s unknown territory.

CE: Back when "Hell on Wheels" first premiered, I thought it was a show about a motorcycle gang, but I quickly found out I was mistaken ...

KK: I had the exact same reaction. Prior to auditioning for "Hell on Wheels," I did testing for an NBC pilot, which was also a period piece, a Western. And it came down to me and another girl, and she got the job. It was quite a disappointment because I had been doing it for so long, and so I was at a loss as to what to do. I thought, I’m not getting any traction. I’m not accomplishing anything. And there was a little turmoil in my head. And I think it was a few weeks later that the audition for "Hell on Wheels" came through. And again, as you said, when I got the call from my agent I thought, “Oh, so it’s a motorcycle gang.” And I thought, “I wonder how I’ll fit in there. I’ll probably be someone’s daughter or something. Or picking up all the motorcycle wheels that are running around on the floor.”

But, anyway, I read the material, and I saw that it was indeed a Western set in the 1800s, just like the previous show had auditioned for. I had a moment of uncertainty and a moment of anxiety because I thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s another one. Can I really do this again?” But then I definitely had this resolve within myself that I’m going to get this one because I just adore period pieces. So I decided that I’m going to get this job. I dressed in my version of an 1800s Western costume. I love dressing up for auditions. I know some people discourage it and say it’s not exactly the best idea, but every time I’ve done that, it’s gone really well, so I’m sticking with it.

I’m just so fascinated by the Civil War time period. I just think it’s so dark and brutal and tragic, and it just aches with sorrow. I remember one night when we studied this at school, I was really compelled by it. And we studied a lot of literature, as well as the history itself, and just everything about that time was gorgeous in its devastation. To have the opportunity to do a television show about that, to act something I’m so passionate about, to put those two things together — I was really thrilled. And the pilot script was just so beautiful. There was all this exquisite imagery and dialogue. And I think that the pilot script was actually quite different from how the show has evolved to this point. I think it was sort of more poetic at the beginning.

CE: In what ways can you relate to Ruth?

KK: That’s a good question. Well, it’s difficult because the show is set in a time in which the circumstances are highly unusual. You know, just that concept of traveling across America to build a railroad was such a radical concept. Today I see in Los Angeles that they’re building the metro or the public transport, and it’s in the middle of everyday life, you know? The workers are just constructing and building, and no one really looks twice. But in those days, it was really a massive undertaking, and the fact that you had to live where you worked.

When I think about relating to Ruth, obviously, I can’t relate to her situation. But I think this show has shown a young girl growing up, and of course I can relate to that. I was a teenager when I started on the show, so I can see I don’t want to say that I mirror Ruth because I don’t really, but just dealing with being an adult and having to make decisions and deal with consequences and all that sort of thing. I have just freshly turned 22, and I was homeschooled, so I suppose I am like Ruth in that way. I had a bit of a sheltered upbringing in that way. I didn’t socialize at school or I didn’t have that experience, so I think I’m quite a bit of a Bambi in some ways, and I think Ruth is too. So, in those ways I can relate.

But obviously, people being killed left, right and center, it’s not, thankfully, something I deal with. I think that Ruth is such an unusual person and because of that peculiarity, she’s interesting. I don’t necessarily have to relate to a character I’m portraying. I know some people like to find an entryway of relating in every way to the character. But that’s not something I find vital. What I like best is playing somebody who’s totally different from me, and inhabiting someone else’s shoes as opposed to seeing if our shoes fit.

CE: What can you tell me about the finish of season three of the show? And feel free to be vague if being specific will get you in trouble.

KK: Oh gosh, I don’t want to be vague. Everybody keeps going on about confidentiality, and I just think, “Well, can we say what doesn’t happen?” I mean, you can say what doesn’t happen, but apparently that is also a step too far.

I think people are going to be totally and utterly and completely shocked by what happens in these last few episodes. When I read the script, it is totally left-field what transpires, and I think people probably have created an idea of what they think is going to happen. But I don’t think anyone could come up with what actually transpires. Some new relationships develop. Some unexpected relationships come to fruition. I think you should expect some death and destruction, as usual; it is "Hell on Wheels" after all. I don’t think that would be a spoiler at all. Just hold onto your socks; they just might blow off.

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